A colossal bridge lead us to the Rhaen city. We were stopped at the gate, but allowed in once they made sure we knew the rules. We were forbidden from using hostile magic, and we had to stay in the outer section.
We examined the fifty foot wall that stood between us and the castle and discussed plans on how to get past it. Kyari’s stone-sculpting spell isn’t quite up to the task. After convincing (to some degree) Jaridan that setting up a carnival was far too complicated, I came up with a plan.
We had overheard that the prince liked to take strange women as his concubrines. Not only did we have two beautiful surface women with us – one an elf, no less – but they were both capable of casting magic, even if any equipment was taken from them. We could attempt to sell them as concubrines, and they could then break out of the castle with Isallha. With some luck, we might even get some money in the process.
Realizing that we didn’t know where Kelas and Adriana were taken past this point, we searched around where the slave camps had been set up. It seems we were about five days behind them. No one was sure of the slavers’ exact destination, but it was agreed on that they went east, where there were several settlements they did business with.
We spent the night at an inn close to the wall as we got ready. Jaridan, with the aid of the tongues spell told the guard we wished to present the girls for sale to the prince. They sent out a page who returned with another Rhaen in fancy garb. He spoke with Jaridan for a while. When they returned, he said they’d send for us in a day or two.
Jaridan seemed to like this Rhaen more than I’d have suspected. He seemed to have too much in common with Ardan for Jaridan to get along with him at all.
So it made a certain amount of sense when Brottor said that he could feel that the man was evil. Truth be told, I think he found most of the city unsavory for similar reasons.
I spent the next day anxiously waiting for a summons that never came. Jaridan amused himself by creating a strange device he calls a “pogo stick.” I envy his ability to entertain himself, even in these conditions.
On the third day, the messenger finally came. In his ongoing attempt to confuse everyone he meets, Jaridan gave him the pogo stick as a tip.
We were lead to the gates, where the same well-dressed Rhaen greeted us. I forced myself to be wary, not wanting to be struck by whatever trick he had used on Jaridan two days before, and promised I’d set him on fire the moment I caught myself liking him.
He and two guards escorted us to where the prince, his adviser, and another half-dozen guards waited for us.
The adviser quickly made it clear that he knew exactly who we were. Seeing little use for subtlety by this point, I demanded to see my cousin.
The prince laughed and told me that Isallha was quite happy here. I insisted that we be allowed to see her, and to my surprise, he agreed readily.
After a while (my cousin was always one to take her time getting ready for just about anything), Isallha entered the room. She raced forward and embraced me, and I hugged her back, but it wasn’t the same as when I had encountered my mother, or even Taras. There was no urgency, no sense of relief in her.
She insists that she’s happy here, and quite convinced that she understands the fullness of her situation. I’m not sure she does. She’s easily swayed by fancy things, and I can see how she might find living in a palace of ice to be more exciting than our farm.
I reminded her that she’d never be able to leave her, that she’d never see her family again. Kyari added in that she’d never see the sun for that matter, but she insisted that it was more important that we save Mira and the others, convinced we’d die if we tried anything here. We tried to convince her that the prince would tire of her, but to no avail.
In a last attempt to reach her, Brottor took her aside, and tried to explain to her that these people were evil, and that the joys they showed her would not last. The urge to forget trying to appeal to her and just attack the Rhaens was hard to ignore.
In the end, I had no choice but to give in to her wishes. Getting out of here with her would be hard enough if she wanted to be rescued.
I told the prince, however, that if he ever mistreated her, I would find out, and I would make him pay. I doubt he took my threat as anything more than hot air, but if he wants to underestimate me, so much the better.
I left the room with a sour taste in my mouth, but I reminded myself that this was not the end. I’d be back for her when the others were safe. Perhaps by then she’ll have wised up.
The Rhaen in the fancy robes stopped us on our way out. He claimed he wanted to earn our trust by offering us a job. He had an orb of information that needed to be delivered to some people named the tri-click. He assured us it would be on our way.
I was about to tell him where he could stick his job, when Kyari agreed to do it. I couldn’t deny the payment might help us find the rest of my family, and the sooner we were out of this accursed city the better, so I swallowed my pride and went along with it.
But putting the Rhaen at my back did little to lift my spirits. Brottor, too, was visibly unsatisfied with how things turned out.
So we were both somewhat excited when a beast showed up for us to vent our frustration. It was a vile creature that positively smelled evil. It ignored Isabelle’s fire, and many blows seemed to bounce off its skin, but we proceeded to hammer away at it. Remarkably, the creature then split in two, but we did not relent.
Finally, both halves fell, dissolving in fire and leaving only two strange crystals behind. They appear to be magic, and may fetch us coin if we can find someone interested in them.
Only one of the Arhu-ghet it had attacked was still alive. I let Kelendenras’s energy wake him. He thanked us, offering us some of the mushrooms he had been gathering when he and his companions were attacked.
At least I saved one person today.